Back during the dark days of the 1980s privatisation of New Zealand government departments, many historic buildings spent time in limbo, as the government decided who was to manage them in the future, particularly those which had been previously been cared for by the old Ministry of Works, which was being disestablished, including Wellington buildings like Old St Paul’s and Turnbull House (pictured above). Emerging out the other side of this process, the Department of Conservation ended up with some of these places, and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (now Heritage New Zealand) with others, for reasons that weren’t always entirely clear. Likewise, both before and since, other historic buildings and sites have been added into the portfolio of one or other of these organisations in a piecemeal fashion, sometimes resulting in examples where the two organisations were managing neighbouring sites.
This week, the government has announced a change to some of those decisions. With regard to Wellington buildings, it has always seemed odd that two of Wellington’s most important places – Old St Paul’s and Antrim House – would be managed by one organisation, Heritage New Zealand, and two of the others – the Old Government Buildings and Turnbull House – by another, the Department of Conservation. Now, the Department of Conservation is to hand over the Old Government Buildings and Turnbull House to Heritage New Zealand, resulting in a great set of buildings in its Wellington portfolio – hopefully providing a critical mass where all the buildings will help to support the others in promotion, management and financial viability.
Also part of the announcement is that Turnbull House, once the home of the Alexander Turnbull Library, is to be earthquake strengthened, which is of course great news. It has been shut since 2012, as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes. I am sure that the many community groups that used the building for decades as a venue for meetings and cultural events will be hoping that it will be returned to that use after that work is completed, although those decisions are yet to be made.
Going the other way, the Department of Conservation will begin managing some of the places that have been managed by Heritage New Zealand for years, including a number of important bridges: the Springvale Bridge near Taihape, and the Clifden Suspension Bridge Historic Reserve in Southland, which recently underwent a major repair project.
Two images of the Springale Bridge, near Taihape. Shellie Evans.
Also included are the Whangamarino Redoubt Historic Reserve at Mercer, the Gabriel Read Memorial Reserve in Central Otago, and the Brunner Industrial Historic Reserve site in Greymouth. Brunner is a particularly good news, as it was an example of where half of the site was managed by one organisation, and the other half by the other, so it is surely to be for the betterment of the site to be managed as one whole.
Brunner Bridge, at the Brunner Industrial Historic Reserve near Greymouth. Shellie Evans
Main Image: Alexander Turnbull Library, Bowen Street, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-023744-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.